Blake C., In re

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtANDERSON
Citation222 Cal.Rptr. 763,177 Cal.App.3d 15
PartiesPreviously published at 177 Cal.App.3d 15 177 Cal.App.3d 15 In re BLAKE C., a Minor. Anna L. & Willie F. ANDERSON, Petitioners and Respondents, v. CECIL C., Objector and Appellant. In re CECIL C. on Habeas Corpus. A019437, A024848.
Decision Date31 January 1986

Page 763

222 Cal.Rptr. 763
Previously published at 177 Cal.App.3d 15
177 Cal.App.3d 15
In re BLAKE C., a Minor.
Anna L. & Willie F. ANDERSON, Petitioners and Respondents,
CECIL C., Objector and Appellant.
In re CECIL C. on Habeas Corpus.
A019437, A024848.
Court of Appeal, First District, Division 4, California.
Jan. 31, 1986.
Rehearing Granted Feb. 28, 1986. *

Page 765

Ingrid Haubrich, Michael P. Goldstein, Jack Walker, Oakland, for appellant/petitioner (on Habeas Corpus)

Jon A. Johnsen, Nanette Zavala, Richmond, for respondents.

ANDERSON, Presiding Justice.

Cecil Ann C. appeals from a judgment terminating her parental rights (Civ. Code, § 232, subds. (a)(1), (7). 1 She also petitions this court for a writ of habeas corpus or, in the alternative, for relief under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The proceedings have been consolidated. (Order of Caldecott, P.J., filed Nov. 22, 1983). We deny the petitions and affirm the judgment.


On May 19, 1977, appellant/petitioner Cecil Ann C. gave birth to Blake, her fifth child. Approximately six weeks later Cecil Ann took Blake to the home of her brother and his wife, Willie and Anna Anderson, and asked Anna to babysit Blake for about one hour. Cecil did not return to pick up Blake. Five days later the Andersons went to Cecil's home to return the baby. Although Cecil asked for Blake, Anna believed that she was too intoxicated to care for him. She and her husband collected some of Blake's clothes and returned home with him.

Ten months later Blake was declared a ward of the court and legally placed with the Andersons as foster parents. Almost two years thereafter wardship was terminated and the Andersons were named Blake's legal guardians. 15 months thereafter, the Andersons filed a petition to free Blake from parental custody and control.

Anna Anderson testified that during the five years Blake lived with her and her husband, Cecil Ann visited him only about six or seven times. She described 13 visits. In the first year Cecil came by the Anderson house twice, bringing a box of diapers and $20 that her father had told her to give to Anna. The second year she visited in August, at which time she was intoxicated. Halloween of that year she stopped by for help with her costume. Although she saw Blake, she did not visit with him. The third year she visited in May on Blake's birthday and again in November, at which time she stayed outside attending to the overheated radiator in her car. Blake was outside the house on the front porch. The fourth year she stopped by for 10 minutes in March and then visited Blake on his birthday in May. The next year (1981) she came to visit, but Blake was not there. She returned

Page 766

a month later in April, at which time she did see Blake. In May she took Blake to the shopping center to buy him something for his birthday. She visited again in September, but Anna would not permit her to take Blake out, explaining that after the last outing he had been "very, very upset that night and cried and was very frightened." When Anna said that it would be better if Cecil visited Blake at the house, Cecil became angry and left. Ann returned to the Andersons' in January of 1982, at which time she brought Blake some belated Christmas presents and spent ten minutes with him. That was her last visit before trial.

Anna testified that Blake believes that she is his mother--his "mama." His brother Cid has told him that Cecil is his mother, but he doesn't understand. Anna acknowledged that her relationship with Cecil Ann through the years has occasionally been hostile.

Cecil Ann testified that when she first left Blake with the Andersons for babysitting, "something happened," and she telephoned to ask if Blake could spend the night. When she returned a few days later to take him home, she fell on the Andersons' front steps and broke her knee cap. She then left Blake with the Andersons because she could not care for him while she was on crutches.

Cecil acknowledged that from 1977 to 1980 she had a serious drinking problem that rendered her incapable of caring for Blake. She stopped drinking in November of 1980 when she was told that she would die if she continued. She testified that she never intended to abandon Blake and that she wants him to live with her now. She believed that her brother and his wife would take good care of him while her problems prevented her from doing so.

Although Cecil Ann did not chronicle her visits with Blake, she testified to three visits with him at her mother's house when Anna was not present. Photographs documenting the visits at her mother's and showing her with Blake in her arms during the 1978 Halloween visit to the Andersons', were introduced in evidence.

The investigating probation officer, Leonard Van Noord, stated his belief that Cecil Ann had left Blake with the Andersons for so long because it seemed to her to be the best thing to do at the time.

In the initial probation report, filed August 3, 1981, Mr. Van Noord reported that Cecil Ann explained that she had had only token communication with Blake because she has never gotten along with Mrs. Anderson and it was difficult for her to visit or see Blake. She did not think it would be best for Blake to be adopted, but she herself was not yet ready to have him live with her. She expressed the desire to have Blake come back to live with her once she "got her things together" and found a house big enough to accomodate him and his sister Ceylona, then living elsewhere, as well as his brother Cid, who was presently living with her. Mr. Van Noord recommended that the petition be granted.

Following the hearing, the court ordered a supplemental probation report. In Mr. Van Noord's interview Anna Anderson denied that she had ever initiated an argument with Cecil Ann, but stated that they had argued over Cecil Ann's involvement with Mr. S., her former husband and the pair's involvement with gang drug-wars. She related a shooting incident outside Cecil Ann's home. She claimed that Cecil Ann resented her going to the police about the incident, resulting in her (Cecil Ann's) arrest, and resented also her subsequent successful effort to have Blake declared a dependent child. Cecil Ann's resentment, Anna maintained, is the only reason she is contesting this action.

According to Anna, living with Cecil Ann is her nephew Donald, who has a police record involving drug offenses, her son Cid, who also reportedly has a past history of drugs, as well as burglary and assault, and Blake's alleged father Calvin, who reportedly has a long record of alcohol abuse, as well as a history of beating Cecil Ann and the children.

Page 767

Statements by former and present neighbors of Cecil Ann, alleging incidents of unsavory behavior by members of her household, also were recorded in the supplemental report.

In an unannounced visit to Cecil Ann, Mr. Van Noord found present in the home, Calvin, Cid, and Cecil's nephew Donald. Cecil Ann stated that Anna had made it difficult for her to visit Blake. She expressed the belief that if Blake came to live with her, it would work out because he gets along well with Cid, and she now is able to care for him. Although Cid is something of a "problem," her daughter Ceylona, now back in the home, is doing very well in all respects.

Donald's probation officer reported that he was on probation for drunk driving and hit and run, and confirmed his involvement with drugs. Ceylona's school principal described her as a responsible, mentally gifted minor who presents no difficulties. Law enforcement agency records relating to Calvin, Cid, and Donald were attached to the report furnished the trial court.

Mr. Van Noord met with Blake at the Andersons' home and observed him to be a happy child who has a close and loving relationship with the Andersons. The officer expressed his concern, based on information received from law-enforcement agencies, about the absence in Cecil Ann's home of a law-abiding atmosphere necessary for Blake's best future, as well as the ramifications of Cecil Ann's various medical difficulties which include a bad heart and bad legs.

Cecil Ann's statement denying Anna Anderson's allegations concerning her home environment and certain of the neighbors' reports was submitted to the court.

The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that Blake should be declared free from his parents' custody and control because (1) his parents left him in the Andersons' care from July 1, 1977, to the present, during at least six months of which period they had the intent to abandon him, and that they made only token efforts to support or communicate with him ( § 232, subd. (a)(1)), and (2) for two consecutive years Blake had been cared for in a foster home, the Andersons' home, under the supervision of the Contra Costa County Social Service Department, and his natural parents were unlikely to provide a home for him or meet the other statutory responsibilities described in subdivision (a)(7) of section 232. The court found also that the return of Blake to his natural parents would be detrimental to him and that it is in his best interests to remain with the Andersons. Only Blake's mother appealed. 2


I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

Cecil Ann challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the findings underlying the judgment grounded on either abandonment ( § 232, subd. (a)(1)) or foster home placement (id., subd. (a)(7)).

On review of the trial court's findings in section 232 proceedings, the appellate court " 'must review the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment below to determine whether it discloses substantial evidence--that is, evidence which is reasonable, credible, and of solid value--such that a reasonable trier of fact could find [that termination of parental rights is appropriate based on clear and convincing evidence].' [Citations.]" (In re Angelia...

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